Breslin Bound: Boys District Preview

February 25, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Anyone who has followed high school basketball has felt the difference in the gym between the regular season and playoff time.

Everything starts fresh tonight for Michigan’s boys hoops teams. But there’s added urgency as well with Districts tipping off all over the state and only the winners moving on.

Check out “Tracking the Tournament” on for every matchup from all 128 brackets, and see below for scores from last week that popped off the page plus a look at three of the most intriguing Districts in each division.

Breslin Bound is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at [email protected].

Week in Review 

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:  

1. Detroit U-D Jesuit 79, Detroit Cass Tech 59 – Jesuit won the annual Operation Friendship matchup between the winners of the Detroit Catholic League A-B and Detroit Public School League tournaments – and they could meet again in the Division 1 championship game.

2. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 56, Mount Pleasant 44 – After sharing the Saginaw Valley League Blue title with Grand Blanc, the Cavaliers handed the Red champion Oilers their only loss of the regular season.  

3. Carleton Airport 69, Monroe St. Mary 59 – With this win, the Jets earned a share of the Huron League title, their first conference title since 2001 and after finishing 2-19 overall last season.

4. Hanover-Horton 78, Ypsilanti Lincoln 73 – The Comets look even more dangerous in Division 3, finishing 19-1 and defeating a Division 1 contender in the Southeastern Conference White champion Railsplitters.

5. Manton 62, McBain 57 – Two weeks after suffering their only Highland Conference loss to McBain, Manton won the rematch to claim the league title outright.  

Districts at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Ann Arbor Huron (13-7), Ann Arbor Pioneer (18-2), Belleville (13-7), Saline (11-9), Ypsilanti Community (13-6), Ypsilanti Lincoln (16-4).

Southeastern Conference Red champion Pioneer and White champion Lincoln are lined up on opposite sides of the bracket, and both have byes tonight. Pioneer has won 11 straight and will have to fend off either Red co-runner-up Huron or fourth-place Saline in a semifinal. Lincoln will see either White runner-up Ypsilanti Community (which it most recently beat by a point Feb. 15) or host and Kensington Lakes Activities Association East co-champ Belleville on Wednesday.

Clarkston (17-2), Lake Orion (12-8), Oxford (19-1), Rochester Adams (17-3), Romeo (8-12), Waterford Kettering (9-11).

The reigning Class A champion Wolves haven’t lost since Dec. 4, the second of two defeats to open the season. They’ve also had just two single-digit wins among those 17 straight. But after winning the Oakland Activities Association Red, Clarkston may have to go through two more league champs with OAA White title winner Adams up tonight and Blue champion Oxford on the other side of the bracket.

Grand Haven (13-7), Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (13-7), Grand Rapids Union (11-9), Muskegon (17-3), Muskegon Mona Shores (5-14), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (15-5).

The most anticipated matchup may be a possible third meeting between Muskegon High and Reeths-Puffer, which split during the regular season. The Big Reds didn’t lose another game after falling in the first meeting, running off 13 straight victories and claiming the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title. Reeths-Puffer, on the other hand, has lost four of its last six games including twice to Kenowa Hills – tonight’s District opponent.


Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Ada Forest Hills Eastern (10-10), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (18-2), Grand Rapids Christian (15-5), Grand Rapids Wellspring (11-8), Grand Rapids West Catholic (12-8), Wyoming Lee (2-17).

Grand Rapids Catholic Central came within a basket of winning Class B last season, falling by a point in overtime to Benton Harbor in the championship game. The Cougars bounced back with a perfect run through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue and losses only to also-league champions Canton and Grand Rapids South Christian. Grand Rapids Christian finished second to the Sailors in the O-K Gold and will look to play spoiler, although the Eagles first must get past surging West Catholic tonight.

Allegan (5-15), Allendale (13-6), Hamilton (7-13), Hopkins (15-4), Holland Christian (16-4), Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-2).

Unity Christian has won 14 straight and held off Holland Christian by 21 and then just five to win the O-K Green outright. They could meet again Wednesday if Unity gets past O-K Blue runner-up Allendale in tonight’s opener. O-K Silver runner-up Hopkins has won 10 of its last 11 games and has a bye on the other side of the bracket.

New Haven
Algonac (0-20), Macomb Lutheran North (9-11), Marine City (15-4), New Haven (19-1), Richmond (19-1), St. Clair (10-10).

New Haven – a Class B semifinalist last year and champion in 2017, and featuring Mr. Basketball candidate Romeo Weems – is among favorites to win the Division 2 championship. But the Rockets will face at least one immediate challenge. Their side of this bracket includes Lutheran North and Algonac. But in the District Final, New Haven could see Blue Water Area Conference champion Richmond or Marine City, which celebrated its first league title since 1985 in taking the Macomb Area Conference Bronze.  


Blissfield (11-8), Clinton (7-13), Erie-Mason (18-2), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (15-4), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-14), Petersburg-Summerfield (18-2).

League champions Erie-Mason (Lenawee County Athletic Association), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (Huron League, shared) and Petersburg-Summerfield (Tri-County Conference) make this an especially tough bracket, with the latter two possibly meeting Wednesday. St. Mary tonight has to be careful with Blissfield, which has won eight of its last 10 games. Summerfield’s only defeat came to Erie-Mason, by 20 on Feb. 13.

Carson City-Crystal
Carson City-Crystal (18-2), Lakeview (6-12), Morley Stanwood (18-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (20-0), Saranac (0-17).

Three league champions fill out 60 percent of this bracket – Carson City-Crystal from the Mid-State Activities Conference, Morley Stanwood from the Central State Activities Association Silver and Pewamo-Westphalia from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference. P-W and Morley Stanwood are on the same side of the bracket and could meet Wednesday – P-W has had three games in single digits all season and the Mohawks have two wins by only single digits and a five-point loss to Grant. Carson City-Crystal’s defeats came to another league champion Sanford Meridian and a runner-up, Reese.

Iron River West Iron County
Calumet (16-4), Iron River West Iron County (10-8), Iron Mountain (20-0), Ironwood (19-1), L’Anse (11-8), Norway (8-11).

This District also includes three league champions – Ironwood from the Indianhead Conference, Calumet from the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper and undefeated Iron Mountain from the West-PAC Iron. The latter two met Dec. 7, an overtime Iron Mountain win, and could meet in Friday’s District championship game. But Ironwood could have something to say about that – it meets Iron Mountain tonight in one of the most anticipated District openers statewide. Ironwood’s only loss came last week to a league runner-up, Bessemer.


Birmingham Roeper
Bloomfield Hills Roeper (14-6), Novi Christian (14-6), Southfield Christian (14-6), West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy (13-7).

Reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian would seem a heavy favorite in just about any Division 4 District having won 12 of their last 13 games after opening with a number of much larger schools. But Novi Christian – tonight’s opponent – finished second to the Eagles in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue and lost the rematch Feb. 5 by only 10, one of the closest Southfield Christian wins of this closing run. Frankel Jewish Academy also was a league runner-up, in the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2, and Roeper was third in the MIAC Red.

Baraga (0-20), Chassell (15-5), Dollar Bay (16-4), Hancock (2-18), Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-12).

Dollar Bay advanced to the Class D Semifinals a year ago and had won nine straight during this regular-season’s second half before falling to Chassell 62-54 on Friday – the win clinched the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country championship for the Panthers. They could meet for a third time Wednesday; Chassell also won the first meeting Dec. 17 by nine.

Bear Lake (11-8), Brethren (11-8), Buckley (8-11), Fife Lake Forest Area (2-17), Frankfort (14-5), Onekama (12-7).

This District actually doesn’t include a league champion. But Frankfort finished second to Division 3 contender Maple City Glen Lake in the Northwest Conference, and Onekama was third. Reigning Class D runner-up Buckley tied for fifth after graduating most of last season’s contributors – but beat Frankfort by 14 last week.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Flint Carman-Ainsworth and Grand Blanc meet in a Division 1 District opener after sharing a league title this winter. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 4, 2024

WYOMING – As the final buzzer sounded, it was all I could’ve imagined – and more.

West Michigan

In the weeks leading up to March 16 and the Division 4 championship game, I experienced every emotion possible as I envisioned what it would feel like to be an assistant coach on the bench at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team achieved its ultimate goal.

In my first year as the junior varsity coach at Tri-unity, I had been on the varsity bench for a majority of the season, assisting legendary coach Mark Keeler and fellow assistants Brent Voorhees, Bob Przybysz and Mike Kaman.

I was there encouraging, motivating and supporting the varsity team. It was a role I embraced, and had become accustomed to over my almost 30 years coaching high school basketball.

I started coaching in 1995 as Jim Ringold gave me my first opportunity as the freshmen girls coach at Wyoming Kelloggsville High School. I would then coach Kelloggsville’s freshmen boys team for eight seasons, while also coaching the freshmen girls at Grandville High School. I would also coach the junior varsity teams at both schools.

I love coaching. I have a passion for it. I’ve always enjoyed getting the most out of my players while creating a bond between player and coach.

When girls basketball season moved from fall to winter joining the boys in 2007-08, I stayed at Grandville. I spent 21 seasons there before stepping down.

I still wanted to coach, and I heard that the Tri-unity junior varsity position was available. I had always respected and liked Keeler and was excited for the prospect of joining a perennial powerhouse.

I didn’t really know about Tri-unity growing up in the Wyoming Park school district. But as a young kid, I would rush home and eagerly await the afternoon delivery of the Grand Rapids Press. I would quickly find the sports page and read it from front to back, hoping one day to see my byline.

I began writing for the Press’ sports department in 1997. It was my dream job. And that’s also when I first started covering Tri-unity boys basketball.

I remember watching eventual NBA all-star Chris Kaman, along with Bryan Foltice and others play for this little Christian school and have unbridled success under Keeler.

MHSAA Tournament runs became the norm for the Defenders. They won their first Finals title in 1996, and they would claim four more over the next 26 years. They also had six runner-up finishes.

Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action.I was sitting on media row writing for in 2022 when Brady Titus led Tri-unity to its fifth state championship.

I never thought that two years later I would be on the coaching staff as the Defenders pursued another one. But there I was.

I knew this year’s team had the potential to be special.

Tri-unity had returned four of its five starters from a year ago, after suffering a heart-breaking two-point loss to Munising in the Division 4 Final.

Eight seniors were on the roster. The team had a mix of talented guard play, senior leadership, size and depth. We had shooters and we played great defense, a trademark of Keeler’s teams.

This was the year, and that heaped lofty expectations on Keeler and the team. It was basically “state championship or bust.” Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

Keeler wanted it badly, and I knew the players did as well. I think they felt the pressure at times of living up to the expectations that had been set.

We had several lopsided wins, but also had a few tough losses to Division 2 and Division 3 teams – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Wyoming Lee, Grandville Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft – all talented teams that I think made us better despite falling short.

As the postseason started, there was anxiety and excitement.

We were one of the favorites, but it wouldn’t be easy. We would have to earn each of the seven victories needed to win it all.

First came a District title, but then we had to play a quality Fowler team in its home gym in the Regional Semifinal. This was a game we knew would be a challenge – and it was.

We led by only one at halftime after a 7-0 run to end the second quarter. The score was tied 33-33 in the fourth quarter before senior Lincoln Eerdmans made a key 3-pointer to spark our victory.

As we went through the handshake line, several Fowler players said, “Good luck in the Finals.”

Our defense played extremely well in the Regional Final and state Quarterfinal to secure our team another trip to the Breslin.

St. Ignace was our opponent in the Semifinal, and we had to face a senior guard who could do it all – Jonny Ingalls. He lived up to the hype. He was good, and we didn’t have any answer for him in the first half. We trailed by one, only to fall behind by seven late in the third quarter.

Was this the end? Were we going to fall one game short of our goal?

Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. We were down by five points in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Keaton Blanker, and others, rose to the occasion. We rallied to win a tight one, and now we were one win away from a Division 4 title.

The night before the championship game, we stayed at a hotel in East Lansing as we had the first game of the day at 10 a.m. We had a team dinner, and the players seemed relaxed and eager to close out the season the way they had intended.

There was one thing that worried me. We were playing Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. A team we had played in the second game of the season and defeated by 30 points.

Would we be overconfident? I had no idea. They were a different team now, but so were we. Anything could happen.

Keeler gave a spirited and emotional pregame speech. In last year’s loss to Munising, he felt like the team played not to lose, and this season his big thing was “I want to win.” He said it to every starter that Saturday morning during the final moments in the locker room before tipoff, asking all five individually to say it back – which they did, the first one quietly but followed by teammates replying louder and louder as everyone got fired up and “I want to win” rang through the locker room. I think it inspired all of us.

After a competitive first quarter, we started to find our rhythm and expanded the lead. We were ahead by double-digits at the half, and a state title was within our grasp. Senior Wesley Kaman buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give us a 20-point cushion. It was at that point I knew we were going to win.

All five starters reached double-figure scoring, led by Jordan VanKlompenberg with 19 points and Owen Rosendall with 14. That balance was intentional and a successful sign for our team all season.

The exhilaration of winning was intoxicating. I loved watching the boys celebrate something they had worked so hard to accomplish. I will never forget their faces. I looked to my right from my seat on the bench and watched them running onto the court, just wearing their joy. They were just elated.

I was so happy for Keeler, a devout Christian who is respected by so many people in high school basketball circles. I learned so much from him this season. The way he approaches each game, his competitiveness. He instills his strong faith in his players and understands that the game of basketball is a bridge to a higher purpose.

Keeler is the fourth-winningest coach in state boys basketball history with a record of 694-216, and will be the winningest active coach next winter as all-time leader Roy Johnston retired from Beaverton at the end of this season.

The tournament run was one of the best coaching experiences I have had, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a state championship season.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian bench, including the author (far right) and head coach Mark Keeler (middle), celebrate a 3-pointer late in the Defenders’ Division 4 championship win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action. (Below) Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)